Colon cancer symptoms
The colon, or large intestine, absorbs water and nutrients and helps process food into waste. Colon cancer may affect the large intestine's ability to perform some of these functions, causing changes in bowel habits or unexplained weight loss.
One way colon cancer may develop is from polyps, small growths that form along the inside lining of the colon. Polyps are often benign or pre-cancerous in the beginning, but if allowed to grow, they may develop into cancer and may spread into the colon wall, causing noticeable symptoms. Polyps and other early signs of colon cancer may be detected and removed during regular screening with a colonoscopy. Consult your doctor on when you should start a screening schedule.
During stage I of colon cancer, no obvious signs or symptoms may have developed. As symptoms develop, they may vary depending on the tumor's size and location in the large intestine. Early symptoms may affect only the colon and result in changes in bowel habits. As the cancer grows, it may spread, producing systemic symptoms that affect your whole body, such as fatigue and weight loss.
Some changes in bowels habits that may be considered colon cancer signs include:
- Change in frequency of bowel movements
- Change in consistency of stool (loose or watery stools)
- Blood in stools (either as bright red spots or dark tar-like stools)
- Rectal bleeding
- Abdominal pain, bloating or cramps
- A persistent feeling that you cannot completely empty your bowels